Virtues and vices


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Photo by Ulrich Lebeuf / M.Y.O.P/ Eyevine

Essay/
Sex and sexuality
Pornucopia

Critics say that porn degrades women, dulls sexual pleasure, and ruins authentic relationships – are they right?

Maria Konnikova

Photo by Ozgur Albayrak/Gallery Stock

Essay/
Gender
Male escorts

Is the growing market for male escorts a sign of female sexual liberation or just a re-run of the same old stereotypes?

Clarissa Sebag-Montefiore

Riot police battle students in the Latin Quarter, Paris, May 1968. Photo by Bruno Barbey/Magnum

Essay/
Ethics
How could they?

Some people are ruthless. Some lose control. Yet most violence remains unfathomable. A new theory lights up the darkness

Tage Rai

Ann Atwater and C P Ellis, longtime enemies, chaired a 10-day community summit on desegregating Durham schools, ‘Save Our Schools’ (SOS). Photo by Jim Thornton, courtesy of The Herald-Sun Collection, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Libraries

Idea/
Political philosophy
Reach out, listen, be patient. Good arguments can stop extremism

Walter Sinnott-Armstrong

Photo by Julie Denesha for the Washington Post/Getty Images

Essay/
Information and communication
And their eyes glazed over

My college students are never entirely present in class, addicted to texts and tech. Is there any hope left for learning?

Joelle Renstrom

Hashish Smokers by Gaetano Previati, 1877. Private collection. Photo by Getty Images

Essay/
Addiction
Missing marijuana

When I stopped smoking weed, my appetite shrivelled and my head throbbed – but it was the dreams that really shook me

Malcolm Harris

Photo by Christian Charisius/Reuters

Essay/
Information and communication
Datagasm

Ever-faster feedback loops and micro-targeted digital porn are pushing human sexuality into some seriously weird places

Mark Hay

From The Secret Companion by R J Brodie London, 1845. Photo by Wellcome Images

Essay/
Virtues and vices
A handy history

Condemned, celebrated, shunned: masturbation has long been an uncomfortable fact of life. Why?

Barry Reay

Two Philosophers. Original painting of Gregg Caruso and Daniel Dennett by Andrea Ventura.

Essay/
Virtues and vices
Just deserts

Can we be held morally responsible for our actions? Yes, says Daniel Dennett. No, says Gregg Caruso. Reader, you decide

Daniel C Dennett & Gregg D Caruso

Passengers from ditched US Airways flight 1549 await rescue in a frigid Hudson River. The pilot, Chesley Sullenberger said later ‘One way of looking at this might be that for 42 years, I’ve been making small, regular deposits in this bank of experience, education and training. And on January 15 the balance was sufficient so that I could make a very large withdrawal.’ Photo by Eric Thayer/Reuters

Essay/
Ethics
Godless yet good

There’s something in religious tradition that helps people be ethical. But it isn’t actually their belief in God

Troy Jollimore

Photo by Angus R Shamal/Gallery Stock

Essay/
Virtues and vices
Against moral sainthood

As philosopher Susan Wolf argues, life is far more meaningful and rich if we do not aim at being morally perfect

Daniel Callcut

Photo by Wesley Hitt/Getty

Essay/
Addiction
The 12-step dogma

The new science of addiction makes 12-step programmes seem like folk medicine. Is the concept of a higher power obsolete?

Rebecca Ruiz

Relax! You’ll get there. Photo by Christopher Anderson/Magnum

Essay/
Pleasure and pain
When it’s good to be bad

The relentless pursuit of success is valorised in our culture, but taking the long way around is often the best

Cody Delistraty

Photo by Martin Parr/Magnum

Essay/
Ethics
Imagine there’s no jealousy

Why we should understand jealousy as nothing more than a vice that ought to be replaced by the new virtue of compersion

Luke Brunning

Original artwork by Mary Gernat for First Term at Malory Towers (1946) by Enid Blyton. Photo courtesy theartofenidblyton.com

Essay/
Stories and literature
Enid Blyton, moral guide

The unfashionable world of Blyton’s school stories still has much to say about what it means to live an ethical life

Nakul Krishna

Visitors take a selfie photograph in front of Girl with Peaches (1887), by Russian artist Valentin Serov at the State Tretyakov Gallery, Moscow. Photo by Alexander Kurov/TASS/Getty

Essay/
Virtues and vices
Modesty means more, not less

True modesty is not to be timid or meek but a way of being in the world that means you don’t get in the way of your life

Nicolas Bommarito

The Rivals (1876) by Charles Edward Perugini. Photo by Getty Images

Essay/
Love and friendship
Love your frenemy

Envy is the dark side of love, but love is the luminous side of envy. Is there a way to harness envy wisely, for growth?

Sara Protasi

Habits to be ‘but coaxed downstairs a step at a time’. Samuel Clemens (aka Mark Twain) enjoys a cigar at his family home in Dublin, New Hampshire in 1906 Photo by Bettmann/Corbis

Essay/
Self-improvement
The lost hope of self-help

Habits – good or bad – were once a matter of ethical seriousness. Are they now just another technology of self-absorption?

Jennifer Ratner-Rosenhagen

Smoking opium, San Francisco, 1900. Public domain photograph, author unknown

Essay/
Human rights and justice
What were drugs?

The war on drugs was always a war against an idea. But ideas have a shelf-life, too, and this one has lost its potency

Mike Jay